South Cambridgeshire to plug funding gap with tax increase and housing firm

PUBLISHED: 13:42 31 January 2018

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nicolamargaret

Households in South Cambridgeshire will pay an average £5 more council tax this coming financial year.

The rise is part of a continuing plan that will see the district increase council tax by the maximum allowed. Despite this, the council still faces a £4.4million hole in its budget over the next five years. A saving of £500,000 is this year’s target.

The cost of plugging the gap would be about £24 per household, but council tax can only be raised by £5 for an average band D home without triggering a referendum. The council’s average band D charge for 2018-19 is proposed to be £140.31.

To make up the shortfall, Cllr Simon Edwards, cabinet member for finance, said the council is having to think of more entrepreneurial ways to raise the funds needed to ensure services do not have to be cut.

Ermine Streets Housing, the council’s housing company set up in 2011, is one such scheme that is now funding almost 10 per cent of the district council’s budget.

Cllr Edwards said: “We’re sticking to plan and everything is as we expected it to be. We’ve got a financial strategy that sets out that we will be raising council tax by £5 every year.

“We really don’t want to look at services and see where we can trim them. We’ve taken a very entrepreneurial approach in the past in generating new sources of income. This is the first step with Ermine Street Housing and now we want to look at other commercial activities where we can generate more income.

“I think it’s a tremendous achievement for the council and its officers to have generated 10 per cent of our income. In the next two or three years I’d like to see the next 10 per cent coming from our own commercial activities and eventually we may get 100 per cent, which would be absolutely fantastic.”

The council expects to generate £1.7million from Ermine Street Housing. Its budget is £19m.

Cllr Edwards said the council has identified a commercial opportunity in Cambourne that would develop the community facilities offer, as well as exploring opportunities at Waterbeach and Northstowe. The council has invested £1.85m in the ice arena being built in Cambridge.

The council has also launched a green energy fund which will provide money for projects such as solar panels. It will offer smaller grants to communities and seek to work in partnerships on larger projects that could see the council generate money through investment in offshore wind farms and solar farms.

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